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Surface Water Quality Restoration

Once an impairment in water has been identified, the next step is to identify the best method of restoration. There are many programs depending on the type of pollution. A large focus of restoration work has been Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) analysis where a pollutant "budget" is created. TMDL analyses are developed to quantify pollutant loads and to identify pollutant load reduction goals based on the capacity of the water to process or assimilate those loads. TMDLs are management plans that go through public hearings and which influence how point and nonpoint source activities are managed in the watershed.

A TMDL analysis is required for an impairment delisting unless restoration is reached through another method. Some options for alternatives include 9-Key Element Plans, adaptive management plans and sediment remediation plans. Contaminated sediment listings are addressed by multiple programs throughout the DNR, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and Remediation and Redevelopment Program.

Restoration funding opportunities

Funding Source Description
Surface Water Grants Lake Management Planning, Lake Protection & Classification, River Protection, River Planning and Aquatic Invasive Species Control
Targeted Runoff Management Grants The Targeted Runoff Management (TRM) Grant Program offers competitive grants for local governments for the control of pollution that comes from diffuse sources, also called "nonpoint source (NPS)" pollution.
Urban Nonpoint Source & Storm Water Management Grants The Urban Nonpoint Source & Storm Water (UNPS&SW) Management Grant Program offers competitive grants to local governments for the control of pollution from diffuse urban sources that is carried by stormwater runoff. 
Water and Wastewater Funding Sources Further lists of funding available to municipalities and individuals.

Restoration prioritization

Restoration actions can only occur on a subset of Wisconsin's waters at any given time due to a large number of water resources in the state. The DNR prioritizes restoration work based on its Water Quality Restoration and Protection Prioritization Framework.

Prioritization currently focuses on two pollutants: total phosphorus (TP) and total suspended solids (TSS). These are two of the most commonly identified pollutants on the impaired waters list. Priority areas are identified through systematic and objective modeling analysis that identified parts of the state experiencing the most ecological degradation and vulnerability to future degradation.

On the impaired waters list the 'TMDL Status' is labeled high, medium or low for a pollutant in Category 5. The categorization for the TMDL Status is defined as follows.

High: A TMDL is currently in development. This could be for any pollutant, but with the current priority, the framework is most likely addressing TP or TSS. This status is associated with Level 1 Priority in the prioritization framework document.

Medium: These are waters with TP or TSS listings that are in geographic areas identified as vulnerable based on the Healthy Waters Assessment (HWA). These areas have poor predicted ecological health or high phosphorus yields and instream concentrations. Additional waters labeled medium priority are those in the top phosphorus priority areas identified in Wisconsin's Nutrient Strategy. Medium priority is associated with Level 2 Priority in the prioritization framework document.

Low: These are waters with listings that do not fall into High or Medium priority. These listings are likely pollutants other than TP or TSS, but some 5P TP listings may also be in this category if outside the areas identified in the HWA or Nutrient Strategy. 

More information

The following pages contain more information on restoration work.